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Saturday, 21 July 2018 00:00

Medical Outreach in the Mountains

Written by  Lee Siew Ngo & Lo Sheau Sia, Sarawak / Translated by Lim Rui Lin

More than 200 Tzu Chi volunteers provided basic health screening for the villagers of Uma Pawa Long House. [Photograph by Ng Hsiung Hsiung]

Tzu Chi Kuching organized a 2-day medical outreach mission with the support from Kelab Cabaran Pacuan 4 Roda Bintulu, benefiting 793 villagers from 15 long houses in Kampung Long Urun, Belaga.


With the support of Tzu Chi volunteers from Kuala Lumpur, Selangor, Penang, Johor, Malacca and Sabah, Tzu Chi Kuching held a medical outreach mission for the villagers of Kampung Long Urun in the Belaga District, from July 21 to 22, 2018. Continuing the good cause from 2017, Tzu Chi also once again received the support from Kelab Cabaran Pacuan 4 Roda Bintulu (4x4). The medical mission that involved 249 persons, including medical professionals from TIMA, served 2,449 patient visits.

Coming together for one mission

On the morning of July 20, volunteers from across Malaysia arrived at Bintulu and met up with volunteers and 4x4 members who had arrived a day earlier on July 19. After lunch, the team set off on a 5-hour journey to the designated location – Uma Pawa Long House, where the medical outreach mission was held. The journey was rocky as the roads into the mountains were narrow and winding. A total of 80 4-wheel drives (4WD) convoyed to Uma Pawa and everyone arrived safely late in the evening.

Villagers from Kampung Long Urun are mainly made up of the Kenyah and Penan ethnic groups. In this mission, Tzu Chi provided villagers with basic health screening services, Western and traditional Chinese medicine consultations, dental services, and breast and prostate screenings. There were also health campaigns to raise awareness among the villagers. As head lice and roundworm infection were common issues that the villagers faced, treatments and medications to clear the two problems were provided. At the same time, villagers were also taught roundworm infection prevention.

Giving without complaints

On the morning of July 21, villagers came forth to register themselves and get screened at the free clinic. Villagers who stayed near the free clinic walked while those who lived further away were sent by the 4WD drivers. After communicating with the head of Uma Jangan Bunyi Long House, volunteers learnt that many villagers needed to work during the day and decided to extend the free clinic hours from 8 am – 6 pm to 8 am – 10 pm.

The villagers were treated with care and compassion. Villagers with arthritis were given Chinese acupuncture treatment to improve their conditions. Although they were unfamiliar with the treatment method, they accepted it and trusted the medical professionals.

While waiting for their turn for consultation, the villagers were entertained by lively dance and song performances by members of the Tzu Chi Collegiate Youth. Some of them also got haircuts, head lice treatment and/or medication for roundworms. Besides that, daily necessities, such as toothpaste and toothbrush, and 2,500 pieces of second-hand clothing were distributed swiftly as each villager was entitled to choose three pieces of second-hand clothing.

Service to benefit villagers

Villager Medylen Pait said, “This is the first time a Buddhist group has organized such a large-scale medical outreach to Kampung Long Urun. I am very happy and grateful for the volunteers who did not mind the distance and came forth to help.” She personally felt that the services provided in the free clinic were comprehensive and suited the villagers’ needs, especially the dental, traditional Chinese medicine, haircut and head lice treatment services.

Seventy-one-year-old Pait Langat used to work as a lumberjack. He broke his ribs three years ago and that forced him into retirement. Due to the nature of his work, he experiences back and knee pain frequently. He related, “When I walk, I can hear sound coming from my knees. I cannot walk far, let alone hunt.”

He was happy to receive acupuncture treatment. “Even though this was my first time receiving acupuncture treatment, I was not afraid. I only hoped that the physician could solve my back and knee pain.” After getting the treatment, he remarked happily, “My back and knees feel much better now!”

Jangan Bunyi, head of Uma Jangan Bunyi Long House, informed the volunteers that most of the long house residents had tuberculosis. Moreover, due to water pollution at the long house last year, many of the residents suffered from gastrointestinal infections. With low hygiene awareness among the residents, the infections spread to residents of other long houses nearby. The villagers could pass away if they did not receive proper treatment, and the situation could only be brought under control when the health department carried out quarantine measures.

Jangan Bunyi highly encouraged the villagers to get treatment from the free clinic. He said, “It is rare to have charitable organizations hold such medical activities for us. What’s more, free shuttle service is provided. I encouraged them to come for body check-ups, get prescriptions, or just to get a haircut. It also saves the villages from having to travel to Sungai Asap for medical treatment.”

As not many villagers had come for consultation two hours after the free clinic started, volunteers reminded the villagers who had received treatment to inform their fellow villagers to come for a check-up.

Having learnt that transportation was an issue for the villagers who lived far away, the 4x4 members voluntarily went to the long houses to invite the villagers to come to the free clinic. They also offered free shuttle services to the villagers.

For villagers who were seriously ill and unfit to travel, the medical team provided house call services to safeguard their health.

Backing each other up

Sim Kim Lian, person-in-charge of Tzu Chi Miri, mentioned that Tzu Chi’s humanistic qualities must be incorporated in its activities, no matter where the activities are held. Besides, volunteers are also expected to work in unity. Thus, when she learnt that the culinary team needed extra hands, she volunteered herself to be part of the team. She said, “There are no permanent positions for anyone here in Tzu Chi. Wherever help is needed, we back each other up.”

During the medical outreach mission, college student Kok Ze Wei was responsible for giving head lice treatment. He always wore a smile and examined the villagers’ scalps carefully before providing treatment. Besides that, he taught the villagers how to prevent head lice infection, such as washing their hair frequently, refraining from sharing combs, and taking care of personal hygiene. He found what he had done during the medical mission meaningful, as he was able to help the villagers.

Pharmacist Voon Yan Choi also helped out with head lice treatment, as there was already enough manpower for dispensary. Despite it being his first time doing it, he was able to handle the task well with some preparation and practice in advance.

“Even though this was not my specialty, I felt that this task was rewarding and I have learnt a lot from it,” he said, adding that education is key to preventing future head lice problems.

The 2-day mission came to an end with much joy and laughter. The volunteers’ selfless contributions touched the lives of the rural community of Kampung Long Urun and brought warmth to the hearts of villagers in this brief period.

 

 

Kelab Cabaran Pacuan 4 Roda Bintulu mobilized a total of 80 4WD vehicles for the medical outreach mission. [Photograph by Tan Pui Lee]   The 2-day event served a total of 793 villagers from 15 long houses. [Photograph by Thong Kit Sang]

Kelab Cabaran Pacuan 4 Roda Bintulu mobilized a total of 80 4WD vehicles for the medical outreach mission. [Photograph by Tan Pui Lee]
 
The 2-day event served a total of 793 villagers from 15 long houses. [Photograph by Thong Kit Sang]
 
Many villagers suffered from arthritis and muscle aches. Their conditions improved after receiving acupuncture treatments. [Photograph by Fu Oi Jong]   Due to the lack of hygiene awareness, many villagers faced head lice problems. [Photograph by Ng Hsiung Hsiung]

Many villagers suffered from arthritis and muscle aches. Their conditions improved after receiving acupuncture treatments. [Photograph by Fu Oi Jong]
 
 
Due to the lack of hygiene awareness, many villagers faced head lice problems. [Photograph by Ng Hsiung Hsiung]
 
Members of Kelab Cabaran Pacuan 4 Roda Bintulu volunteered to provide haircut services for the villagers. [Photography by Thong Kit Sang]   71-year-old Pait Langat was a lumberjack. The nature of his work had caused constant pain to his back and knees. He felt much better after receiving the acupuncture treatment. [Photograph by Ng Hsiung Hsiung]

Members of Kelab Cabaran Pacuan 4 Roda Bintulu volunteered to provide haircut services for the villagers. [Photography by Thong Kit Sang]
 
 
71-year-old Pait Langat was a lumberjack. The nature of his work had caused constant pain to his back and knees. He felt much better after receiving the acupuncture treatment. [Photograph by Ng Hsiung Hsiung]
 
Kok Ze Wei was responsible for providing head lice treatment. He was happy to have the opportunity to serve others. [Photograph by Mok Chek Boon]  

Kok Ze Wei was responsible for providing head lice treatment. He was happy to have the opportunity to serve others. [Photograph by Mok Chek Boon]